Practice possessive pronouns / determiners in this dialogue about Afonso’s birthday plans.
Rita realizes that she has quite a bit in common with Marcelo’s siblings! Listen for lots of possessive pronouns and possessive determiners throughout their conversation.
Isabel goes to a party where she doesn’t know anyone, so Eduardo tells her about each of the guests.
Menus might be missing at this restaurant’s table, but a courteous waiter is eager to keep a new customer satisfied.
Possessives formed with de are less ambiguous: they agree strictly with the subject, not with the object. In contrast, seu and its derivatives agree with the object, so we are not able to differentiate between the several possible 3rd person subjects without extra context.
In other words, when using dele, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the subject/person who possesses something. When using seu, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the object/thing being possessed.
- dele Play slow audio Play normal audio his – When the subject is ele (him).
- dela Play slow audio Play normal audio her – When the subject is ela (her).
- deles Play slow audio Play normal audio their – When the subject is eles (them, a group with at least one male).
- delas Play slow audio Play normal audio their – When the subject is elas (them, an all-female group).
These are also used for the same 3rd person subjects, but the specific form used must match the gender and number of the object/noun being
The Ambiguity of Seu, Sua, Seus, and Suas
To review, the Portuguese possessive pronouns/determiners for the third-person forms are the following:
As you can see, ele Play slow audio Play normal audio he, him, ela Play slow audio Play normal audio she, her, você Play slow audio Play normal audio you(formal), eles Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them(masc.), and elas Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them(fem.) all share the same exact possessive determiners! Since the determiners agree with both the number and the gender of the noun that is being possessed (rather than the subject), knowing precisely who we’re talking about is a bit tricky. Let’s see some examples:
Possessive Determiners vs. Possessive Pronouns
In this unit, we’re going to learn about possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, which both serve the function of expressing possession or ownership of something.
In English, these are words like my, your, his, her, their, and our (possessive determiners) and mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours (possessive pronouns).
Possessive determiners precede the noun they are modifying. They tell you to whom a specific item belongs. For example, in the sentence It is my cat, you can tell that the word my is a determiner because it needs to be followed by a noun (cat). “It is my” would not be a complete sentence.
Possessive pronouns replace the noun they are modifying. They convey ownership without telling what exactly is being owned. For example, in the sentence It is mine, you can tell that the word mine is a possessive pronoun because it can stand on its own in place of a noun.
In Portuguese, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners make use of the same words: meu, teu, seu, nosso, vosso, plus their associated feminine and plural forms. As you will see below, this means that there are multiple possible translations for each possessive word.
To choose the correct possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, you can start by
(1) choosing the form that goes with the person possessing something, and then
(2) modifying that word to match the gender and number of the noun being possessed.
Mine, Yours, and Ours
Let’s take a closer look at this first group of possessives: meu, teu, nosso and vosso, plus their feminine and plural forms.
Gender and Number Agreement
Remember that the pronoun/determiner has to agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to, rather than the person/subject.
For example, if we’re talking about single objects, such as um jornal Play slow audio Play normal audio a newspaper (a masculine noun) or uma revista Play slow audio Play normal audio magazine (a feminine noun), we’d get:
His, Hers, Yours, and Theirs
There are just a few more Portuguese possessives to learn:
See what happens there? The pronouns/determiners for the third-person singular (+ você) and the third-person plural are all the same!
Gender and Number Agreement
Once again, the pronouns or determiners must agree with the respective noun, not with the subject!
If we’re talking about single objects such as um carro Play slow audio Play normal audio a car (masc. noun) and uma mota Play slow audio Play normal audio a motorcycle (fem. noun), here’s what we get: